|Updated: 7/02/14 | © 1999 - 2014 Cool Bunny Media | Da Cool Bunny sez 'Spank that Plank, Baby!'|
No idea who John Kruth is, but on the evidence of this CD he is a songwriter of a rare wit and wryness. Nominally a rocker, there are enough traces of country, roots and Americana to lift him above the usual suspects. Comparisons can be misleading but I think that anyone who likes Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers would enjoy this. Kruth has surrounded himself with a rich mixture of instruments: mandolin, flute, fiddle, sax, bongos, dulcimer, penny whistle as well as the usual rock instrumentation, and this works very well indeed. Favourite tracks include The Greatest Movie Star (an ode to Marlon Brando), Very Sensitive About It, Asperin And A Little Mascara, and World's Worst Room-mate. I have to applaud Gadfly for continually finding new talent worthy of their promotion.
I guess that the Volebeats would now be classed as 'Americana' or Alt.Country, though this reissue of their 1989 debut album reveals some very quirky material that defies blanket categorisation. My own description [for what it's worth] is imagine a mix of the country chops of The Flying Burrito Brothers, the r'n'b pulse of the New Rhythm & Blues Quartet (NRBQ) and the vocal naiveté of Jonathan Richman and you have a rough approximation of how the Volebeats sound. According to the sleeve notes the line-up of the group fluctuated so much that I'm confused as to who exactly played with who on this CD, so I'll leave the personalities out of it. Highlight tracks include Leave This Town, And You Know It, Bottles, Halfway to Nowhere, and the luminescent Tex-Mex instrumental Tequila Y Buñuelos which would give the Shadows pause to think if they heard it. Come to think of it, there's barely a single track not worthy of your attention. I'd not heard of the Volebeats before this CD arrived, and I'm eager to hear more by them - this is a group that make great honest music. Highly recommended.
Gadfly Records seem to have a knack of finding very rootsy sounding rockers, and once again they have come up trumps with Don Morrell. The sound is part Graham Parker and part Springsteen [the less bombastic part, natch], with a dash of white soul boy. Morrell's band sound hot on this CD, a tight unit ably backing up their boss in a collection of songs written with a range of collaborators, including guitar hero [and ex-Rockpiler] Billy Bremner and Morrell's wife Linda, who also duets and provides backing vocals throughout the album. The title song is a cracker, as is It Ain't Paradise and the almost spiritual I Have Friends (Who Are Never Coming Back) leaves a deep sense of loss [of friends, Aids victims, the past etc.] behind its dying seconds. This is another great album by an artist who deserves to be much more widely heard.
Deborah Holland is a singer/songwriter chronicling the same part of the human condition as covered by the better known Mary Chapin Carpenter. Musically, we're talking intelligent country backings (though it's very muted at times), no Nashville candy, just good tunes, acoustic backings and the singer's mature, knowing voice. Oh yeah, this album also drips with irony and candy coated bile - check out Pinochet and Margaret Thatcher for that. Other highlights include Hard to be a Human in the Universe, Weak at Heart, Happy Birthday, You're Turning 40, I'm Sorry, and Faded Red Car. I don't know if this is Deborah Holland's debut album, or whether she's been recording for some time - if it's the former then this is an extremely assured debut of a songwriter worth investigating.
This is a new name to me, but the music on Victory Songs certainly smacks of maturity and a lot of musical competence. It sounds to me as if one of Robert Crenshaw's musical influences is Tom Petty as his voice shares the same rock 'n' roll whine, and this album reminds me a lot of him. This is melodic rock with a hard edge and a tinge of velvet country and blues around it. Highlights include Eating Crow And Drinkin' The Blues, Missing You More, Blue Sometimes and Victory Songs itself. A few tracks also feature Jamie Hoover (of the Spongetones) as co-writer and performer, a sure mark that there's good pop mojo working here. I liked this album a lot, it rocks gently but firmly, the musicianship is superb and many of the songs have memorable hooks. What more can you expect of a good pop album?
I'm not sure what classification you'd give the music on this album, it certainly has bits of country and folk in it, and a little rock 'n' roll, so I guess this is what they call Americana. Sons.. consist of Bruce Roper, Deborah Lader and Sue Demel plus assorted session musicians. They perform a tight harmony vocal style of music, and it reminded me a bit of the Mamas & Papas, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, CSN&Y etc. Tracks that appealed to me included Jonah, Comet, the slightly swinging My Last Boyfriend, and the gospelly Tevas. But I have to admit that this album didn't really appeal to me, it's a bit too precious for my tastes. However, if you like American folk music then you will probably go for this group.
Few albums have a title that is literally true, but A Good Week's Work accurately describes this new album by British rock guitarist Billy Bremner which was recorded in seven days in a studio in Sweden earlier this year. This cd was a very pleasant surprise as I hadn't heard anything by Bremner for many years, having lost track of him when his group, Rockpile, split up acrimoniously in the early 80's. Indeed, he should be accorded semi-legendary status for his work during the British 'New Wave' period of the late 70's - his country rock/rockabilly guitar stylings backed many an artist on the great indie label Stiff Records, and he was a mainstay on both Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe's solo albums during this period, ultimately becoming rhythm guitarist in their 'supergroup', Rockpile.
And now he's back, sounding just as good, perhaps a little more world-weary vocally, but still peddling an infectious brew of country rock/rockabilly and British pub-rock that gets the foot tapping and the mouth smiling. Performing in a classic rock trio format, his Swedish rhythm section of Joakim Arnell on bass and Niklas Aspholm on drums provide tight and sympathetic backing. The material on this album is all self-penned and doesn't veer too far from what you would have heard from Rockpile. There's nothing innovative here, but tracks such as I Get Enough, I See It In Your Eyes and Keep This House Rockin' will get the rockers on their feet. It has to be said that Bremner is a much better guitarist than vocalist, and his voice tends to sound thin and weedy on most of the ballads. That aside, this is a fine album that deserves a much wider circulation in his own country, but kudos should go to Gadfly for releasing this.
There are albums that you know from the very first note you are going to go apeshit over, and that is the case with this album by the strangely named Spongetones. A classic four man group setup, the 'Tones mine a rich seam of 60's nostalgia with their original songs that strongly reminded me of 60's Britpop bands such as the early Beatles, Searchers, Mindbenders, Fortunes and Tremelos. This is nostalgia for a time when pop songs were pop songs, but the 'Tones aren't a tribute band - they've taken the best music stylings from that period of classic pop music and made them their own via a set of excellent original pop songs. Potential hits include You'll Come Runnin' Back, Boy Meets Girl, Paul McCartney's On The Wings of a Nightingale, the punning Eyedoan Geddit and the instrumental March of the Creaming Beezers. In truth, there isn't a bad track on this album, and it hasn't been out of my CD player for weeks now. I take my hat off to Jamie Hoover, Steve Stoeekel, Rob Thorne and Patrick Walters, they've produced one of the best albums I've heard in a long time.
For more about the Spongetones click here!
I must admit I had to rack my brains a bit when I first saw this CD - the name Kimberly Rew was vaguely familiar to me, but from where? Then it came to me: Katrina & the Waves, and their classic summer hit, Walking On Sunshine. This guy wrote it and played guitar on it. Sorted. And so to Tunnel Into Summer - a perky collection of rock and pop songs that many other songwriters would kill for. In a perfect world tracks such as Rosemary Jean, Simple Pleasures, the bluesy Heart of the Sun, Plas Yu Rhiw and Tart With A Heart would all be massive hit singles. As it is they make this album an unsung 'Best Of'. As is the case with many solo albums nowadays, Rew has called in favours from some guests: Robyn Hitchcock, Glenn Tillbrook, and Dave Mattacks. If you like pop-rockers such as Tom Petty then you will definitely like this - oh, and there a great twangy guitar instrumental called Alice Klaaar which should get would-be axe heroes' fingers twitching!
Ian McLagan is a musician who should be a familiar name to anyone interested in the history of British pop music. He played keyboards for the Small Faces, then the Faces and sessioned for many other bands and artists. I think this is his first solo album and it is a corker. Anyone who remembers the boozy rock and roll of the Faces will immediately fall for Best of British - indeed, the title track is a great singalong with a sentiment many ex-pat Brits will recognise. The album continues with a tight little rocker, I Only Wanna Be With You, followed by the nostalgic She Stole It, which sounds like something Rod Stewart could croak to #1. The rest of the album is equally ear friendly, which is a rarity nowadays. The resemblance to a Faces album isn't that surprising either, with Ronnie Wood guesting on several tracks, as does Billy Bragg. This album hasn't been off my CD player since it arrived - I can't think of a better recommendation.
According to the inlay booklet, Corky Seigel is quite a distinguished composer, songwriter and performer, whether solo, with a symphony orchestra or with a rock band. Solo Flight is a compilation of his rock/blues/country solo material from the years listed. One thing immediately apparent from the first listen is that Mr Seigel has a good line in quirky, offbeat humour, a mean left [and right!] hand on the piano and can wail his harmonica with the best of the Chicago bluesmen. Of the sixteen tracks here none are less than interesting while many are downright inspired. The best of the best here include Idaho Potato Man, I Don't Need A Roommate, Am I Wrong About You, Midnight Radio, and South West Coast Blues. There's a strong vein of wistfulness skeined through the songs here, along with a delicacy that is unusual in such material. Corky Seigel is certainly several cuts above the generic singer/songwriter.
Okay, lets get it out of the way first - yes, Tom Chapin is the brother of the more famous Harry, but he's an equally fine singer/songwriter as this reissued album from 1982 confirms. It opens with the gently swinging Rockin' My Baby, followed by the more personal Running Away. I have to admit that I prefer the more upbeat songs such as I Call You and Jeannie, which seem to favour the singer's voice more. Highlight track is a lovely version of his brother's song Circle, a fitting tribute to a very fine songwriter who died far too early. Overall, this is a very listenable album, with some fine songs and musicianship, and a very smooth sound.
The last thing I expected to hear on a Gadfly album is English folk/protest music, but this is what you can discover on Harry's Gone Fishing. Leon Rosselson is a veteran British folk songwriter and performer and this album features a collection of his most pungent political and social observations set to music. Instrumentation is quite spartan, simple acoustic guitars mostly, with occasional splashes of a brass or woodwind section. Highlights include Harry's Gone Fishing, Mercenaries, the epic Postcards From Cuba, the very witty Bad Driver, and You Noble Diggers All. I liked the lyrical directness of this album, and its sheer simplicity - just a singer and his guitar. The most direct music of all!
Breakaway play the coolest bluegrass I've heard in quite some time - though you don't hear that much 'grass here in the deepest westcountry of the UK! Come to think of it, bluegrass isn't something I'd expect from Gadfly, but once again the surprise is a pleasurable one. Anyway, Breakaway play bluegrass straight: no drums, synths, fusion dance beats. This is the pure stuff, and an invigorating mixture it is too. The group consist of Scott Hughes, Paul Miller, Peter Riley, and Gene White, with help on various tracks by Taylor Armerding and Junior Barber. The album consists of songs with high plaintive vocals such as Pastures of Plenty, Water's So Cold, the more swinging Can't Stop a Train and fast pickin' instrumentals like Snowshoe. Hold With Hope certainly live up to its title in that it shows there still life in one of the most traditional areas of country music. I've been rotating this cd on the deck for weeks now and haven't grown tired of it yet. That is the mark of a good album!